Sports crazed

Hadley is wrapping up her volleyball season this week and it has been one of highs and lows. She tried out and made the club team, switched to the setter position and then got hurt by the snowboarder…which set her back several weeks. While everyone was learning rotations and skills, she often has to sit out until her back healed…but even after she started feeling better, her coach had already written her off. And the bad news is that same coach also coaches at the high-school level. Even though money is tight (no thanks to our mountain of medical bills and the snowboarder who refuses to pay them), we enrolled her in BYU’s volleyball camp this summer because it’s one of the few activities she enjoys.

A few weeks ago, that coach was out of town for a tournament as was the other setter (there are three of them) so Hadley got to play for two days and she did so well! The Friday night was sheer magic. Those girls won every single game (something that has never happened) and they were on cloud nine. Until Saturday play. They were bumped up to the elite gold level and I kid you not–some of those eighth grade girls were at the same level as my high school team.  We got slaughtered.

But at least they looked good doing it!

Bode kept busy this winter with cross-country ski lessons, coding and downhill skiing. He is signed up for track with his buddies and when I suggested he start running to get in shape for that and soccer, he responded, “No way, Mom. I can already run a 9.5-minute mile.” Talk about a speed demon.

Jamie is coaching rec soccer gain this year. This is Bode’s fourth season playing in Utah and Jamie’s second time coaching. He learned his lesson last season when he opted not to coach and when we got someone who had zero experience with soccer which made Jamie a very irascible parent. He has learned the hard way that if he’s going to sit on the sidelines screaming at everyone, he may as well be coach.

I took on the role of team manager, texting everyone and organizing the snack schedule. When I asked all the parents what position their kids played, most responded “defender” or they had little/no experience at all.

We were bracing ourselves for the worst today but my gosh if their team didn’t dominate. They’re playing co-ed at this age and our nine boys and three girls annihilated the other team 8-0. It was fun to see them play so seamlessly together–passing and already demonstrating awesome teamwork. One of the boys, Aaron, just moved here from upstate New York and proclaimed Jamie the best coach he has ever had.

Let’s see if they can keep that momentum going!

Launching into a Week of Work Craziness

The bad: This week is my craziest week of work for the entire year.

The good: After my big event, my stress-load will be almost non-existent.

I oversee our college’s big donor events and this one, The Mentored Student Research Conference, is one of the largest on campus and established as part of the Mary Lou Fulton Chair. Her husband, Ira, was an Arizona developer who made millions of dollars and has donated much of his fortune to universities and charitable causes. The conference I’m in charge of is a poster conference where hundreds of students have submitted posters of research they have done in collaboration with their mentor-professors. Following the poster conference on Thursday morning, we’ll host a luncheon for 500 where the cash prizes will be announced. It has been a big bear-of-a-project to organize, mostly because 90% of the students waited until the last 12 hours before the deadline to submit their posters…and some of them ran into web problems with their submissions.

And guess who was driving to San Diego right as that poster deadline hit? This girl. Fielding problems was a super fun start to our vacation!

My first 2.5 months of my job have been so crazy busy: I have been juggling our two biggest events, as well as wrapping the editorial for our alumni magazine. I’m really excited for the new direction I have taken it.  The challenge with our college is it’s the largest on campus and our departments are VERY different–from psychology to history to neuroscience to anthropology. When I first started, I had major anxiety about the magazine because my predecessor is my polar-opposite. She’s very research-oriented and bookish so the alumni magazine was very scholarly with some loooong reads and extensive footnotes. That is not a knock on her but it’s just not my style; I don’t know how to write or edit that way, nor do I want to.

I’m relieved my boss has been open to letting me revamp the magazine and I’m thrilled how it’s coming together with some interesting feature stories, lots of inspiration and a few fun sections, too. My students are doing most of the writing but between all of our back-and-forth with edits, my hands have been on every single page. I’m even more relieved to send it to another editor at university publications before we meet with the designer to brainstorm ideas and layout. It’s funny because the area I dreaded the most with my job is turning out to be my favorite. I need to infuse more creativity into this position (so much of it is checklists for event planning) so this is my first step in the right direction.

BYU’s graduation is in a few short weeks and then my workload will drop off drastically until fall. In fact, I’m kinda worried about how to keep my student employees busy all summer. My position is three-quarter time but I’ve been working way more than that but the good news is legally, I can’t work more than three-quarter time over the course of the calendar year so that means I’ll have a lot more flexibility to take time off this summer to balance out my total hours.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be the promotional support for a student-giving campaign where we granted rare access to the rooftop of the tallest building on campus (the Spencer W. Kimball Tower) for “Selfies on the SWKT.” Imagine my delight to discover the day before the event that the student in charge (not one of MY students), gave us the wrong date for all the promotions so it was a frenzied few hours reprinting and republishing everything. But my crash course in student leadership worked out just swell and we had a great turnout. 

(With my students Alisa, Madelyn and Grace)

A few memorable quotes up there:

  • “I saved three lives today.”
  • “You’re making dreams come true.”
  • “Is this where we’re meeting for target practice? #Lookoutbelow”
  • “Can you get a picture of me looking at Y mountain? Gotta get the hipster shot.”
  • “We’re actually adults who want to do kid things.”
  • Student trying to shmooze Buildings Exteriors Manager Kerry Wilson for off-hours rooftop access: “So, I’ve been dating this girl for a while and I need to do something really good to impress her. What can you do for me?”
  • “Don’t shut down the elevators yet. We need to give stragglers their ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ moment.” (mine)
  • “Wait. There’s a backpack left behind. Is it Noah’s?” (mine)

Here’s to surviving my craziest week of the semester. The positive: at least I no longer have to take finals.

That Whole Prayer Thing? Just Do It!

We just returned from a fast-and-furious trip to San Diego for Spring Break. We had to cram a week’s worth of activities into just three days because I have a huge work event next week so it was quite the whirlwind. When I get a moment to breathe, I’ll document all of the fun but for now here is something noteworthy.

On Friday, we went to SeaWorld. I have pretty magical Shamu memories from my youth and though they’ve done away with that show due to the recent trainer death, it’s still a special place. Jamie, Hadley and Bode and never been so it has been on my bucket list for them. We arrived at the park on Friday right after it opened and we pretty much had the run of the place (the crowds came later) so we had a blast riding their Manta roller-coaster (not too fast, not too slow, but juuuuust right). We were on a high as we explored the exhibits, pet stingrays and explored the Park.

Enter: Shipwreck Rapids.

We’ve done a similar ride several times at other theme parks with the winding river turns to rolling whitewater rapids. It’s a fun ride but not a favorite unless it’s hot because you get really wet. But Bode really wanted to do it and when you’re the younger brother of a bossy older sister, you rarely get your way. And easy-going Bode usually lets it slide so when he really wants to do something, we try to make it happen. The line said the wait time was 30 minutes but 60 minutes later, we finally boarded and the boys got drenched. During the ride, some nice passersby called out to us, waving. We excitedly waved back and that’s when they unleashed their supersoaker spray guns. For just 25 cents you can shoot the people on the ride.

Well, Bode was sold. After we got off to the ride, we were drying off near the lockers and he asked if he could have a quarter. I gave him my wallet, forgot about the interchange and a few minutes later, we went to get something to eat. As I went to pay, I reached into my backpack  and the wallet was gone.

“Bode, where is my wallet?”

“I gave it back to you!”

Turns out, he didn’t *exactly* return it…he left it on the ledge where I was sitting…and then we walked away.

Panicked, the two of us raced back to the lockers. As we were running, his first instinct was, “Mom, we need to say a prayer.”

We’ve taught the boy too well. I said a rushed prayer mid-run and as we returned to the final resting places of my wallet, we were dismayed that it was gone. The woman now sitting there said a couple of ladies were previously there and that she saw the wallet—she assumed it belonged to them. She got up to go to the restroom and when she returned, those ladies—and the wallet—were gone. AWK! I asked around to the area workers to see if it had been turned in and nothing.

Dismayed, we loped back to the lost-and-found to file a report. I didn’t have much hope but fortunately Bode did. He later told me he said two additional prayers that the person who had the wallet would feel bad and turn it in.

I told Bode I knew it was an accident but I was still in a MOOD. I told Jamie to take the kids to do some rides and I would meet them at the next show while I stayed behind to put a hold on our credit cards.

As I sat there, I felt I should go back to the scene of the crime one last time. Upon arrival, I saw a new worker at the gate—I had previously noticed him operating the Manta ride an hour earlier. Even though he wasn’t around when the wallet was taken, I asked him if he had heard anything.

“Yes,” he said. “A wallet got turned in and taken back up to the Manta ride.”

I raced up the ramp and sure enough, my wallet was there in one piece. How grateful I am for the honest people who found it and for the young boy whose first instinct was to turn to prayer.

That same week, my dad posted that he had misplaced my mom’s hearing aids. He had looked EVERYWHERE and couldn’t find them….but just before he was going to spend a few thousand dollars to replace them, he said a prayer. And he found them a few minutes later in her purse.

Takeaway: Prayer works and I need to slow down and remember that more.

Winter, resurrected

Good gracious, who writes a blog post entitled “the winter of my discontent” and then doesn’t write again for the rest of the month?! It’s been a whirlwind for sure but I’m happy to say that winter did eek out a brief comeback and I was able to have a couple of great ski days to finish out the season.

Ski Buddies

Bode and I went skiing with friends Porter and Julie and we had a blast! The last time we skied with Porter in January, he ended up getting hauled away in an ambulance so we were thankful everything went perfectly. The snow was soft, the sun was out and it was an awesome reminder of why we love this sport so much. 

We celebrated Jamie’s mom’s birthday the night before and while we waited for our food to arrive, Bode entertained everyone for a half hour with all of his silly jokes and brain teasers.  Well, my boy was primed and ready when there was an open mic moment while we waited in the looong line at the base of Silverlode. The brazen boy of mine skied right up and told his compelling, “What is brown and sticky?” joke. And the answer: “A stick.” Duh. I laughed louder than anyone because I’m his mom.

We were also thrilled to see Cosmo, BYU’s mascot shredding the terrain park. As we were skiing down, we overheard an adoring snowboarder say “he has the voice of an angel,” which is particularly mind-blowing because I didn’t think he talked.

The day was non-stop fun and even though I’m not superstitious, I know the reason.  As we drove to the resort, someone had attached a “Good Luck” balloon to a roadside carcass. God knew we needed a win and delivered His message through roadkill.

I had such an awesome time that I went skiing by myself the following week. Usually I hate to go solo–it’s one of the few sports I don’t enjoy by myself–but Park City had fresh snow, sunny skies and I skied the strongest of this season. It was one of those ski days I never wanted to end!

But alas, I had to race back to pick-up Hadley to take her to a two-day volleyball tournament in Salt Lake City. It’s been a tough season for her. She switched to being the setter and started out strong but following her accident, she had to miss the first tournament. Even though she barely missed a practice, there were some drills she couldn’t do those early weeks. She is 1 of 3 setters so the coach benched her and has made little effort to involve her, which made the problem even worse because when you’re not playing, you’re not learning the rotations or the position. I could start a rant about a myriad of other frustrations all of the other parents share but I’ll stop there. Unfortunately, the club coaches are also the high school coaches so no one wants to burn bridges. We’ll need to enroll her in BYU’s volleyball camp this summer to get her up to speed.

The good news is this coach did not attend the tournament and the substitute coach played her every single game for two days. And she did great! They won all of their games Friday night and were on a total high (they’ve lost pretty much every game this season). But those victories set them up for a day of defeats the next day. They got bumped up to the gold medal bracket and these teams were en par with my high school team’s level of play. So, we got HAMMERED. But if you have to spend two days watching these girls play volleyball, at least they’re cute.

 

My job will start slowing down after a big event I have on April 12th. I feel like I’m getting more of a handle on things and am enjoying the position and my co-workers.  I plan to drop down to a four-day work week soon; it’s a 3/4-time position but it has been all-consuming up until this point, leaving little time for anything else. It doesn’t pay well enough to justify my 1.5-hour commute five days a week so I’m hoping once things slow down I’ll be able to dedicate more time to Mile High Mamas and other freelance projects because money is still really tight with a mountain of medical bills (thanks to the snowboarder who refuses to pay for Hadley’s accident) and our backyard.  Jamie calls the next two months “hell” because we’ll be hauling in tons of rocks and landscaping our half-acre backyard. My garden will have to wait for another year…this summer, I’ll just be happy with grass.

We’re still not loving this house (maybe we never will) but goshdarnit, we have the most gorgeous plot in all of Midway so we can at least make our yard something to be enjoyed.

The winter of my discontent

This is the winter of my discontent. Last year was so incredible for winter adventures and this season has constantly come up short…and so have I!

Nordic Skiing

We finally got some snow on my birthday weekend and for the first time, we were able to Nordic ski the majority of Soldier Hollow. For most of the season, we were only able to ski on a 5 km loop of man-made snow. However, I was extremely impressed with the resort’s snow farming. Every time there was a storm (which was’t very often), the resort collected huge mounds of snow the kids nicknamed “the snow whales.” As the snow would start to melt, the groomers would spread the snow from the whales all over the loop. The conditions weren’t always optimal but I’ll tell you what: those kids had a BLAST climbing and skiing down those steep snow whales.

Bode has turned into a great Nordic skier and officially surpassed me this season, which really doesn’t take much. Though I love Nordic skiing and grew up skiing the track on the golf course near our house, I’ve never been very adept at skiing downhill on Nordic skis. In fact, I’m quite a hot mess. Case in point: There was a REALLY steep hill I nicknamed the hill of death along this 5 km track. The first time we did it, I barely made it down in one piece and last week, I crashed and burned. Big time. The hill was steep and icy and unlike downhill skis where you have glorious things called sharp edges and the ability to turn, your only method of slowing down on Nordic skis is to snowplow or telemark (the latter of which I do not know how to do). And so I tried the trusty ‘ol “pizza” and even that didn’t work on the icy slope as I barreled down at top speeds. As I neared the bottom, I thought “Maybe I CAN do this,” and then I wiped out…my worst ever on Nordic skis.

I was sore for days and in my former, stupider years I would have said YOU’RE MINE, MOUNTAIN and jumped back on that horse but since I’m older, wise and more injured, I took the opposite approach: I bypassed the hill entirely and cut across to the bottom of it. The instructor, Evelyn, waited for me at the top with everyone and asked, “Bode, is your mom really that far back there?” and then they noticed me already at the bottom, poised to take pictures.

I have no shame.

I was one of the fastest in his class last year but this year, he was in the “Snow Leopards,” the top level. I was among the slowest on the downhill (though the uphill climbs were definitely my strength). Thank goodness for Ethan who lagged far beyond the class and was my excuse for falling beyond.

Last week was the final week of class, which was really sad because we finally have snow for the first time all year. We had a beach party and the kids had a blast doing obstacle course races and climbing the snow whales. Bode has gotten really good at skate skiing and was the very last one in the group of 30 kids to be tagged in “Infection.”

Bode and his buddy Henry

Conquering the snow whale

I’m not sure if I should be proud or a bit worried.

Downhill Skiing

Last year was such an epic one with downhill skiing and I truly couldn’t get enough time on the slopes–between SkiUtah Board meetings at Solitude and Sundance to our memorable “Interlodge” experience at Alta (we thankfully had two awesome ski days), to frequent ski outings with the ladies and Bode. I loved skiing Utah!

But this year?  From Hadley and our friend Porter’s ski accidents to dismal snow, the odds have not been ever in our favor.

Last Friday, Jamie and I both took the morning off work to finally hit the slopes together. We were right in between two storms and we figured we had perfect timing.

Oh, how wrong we were.

The problems started in the parking lot. As we were putting on our gear, Jamie got an urgent call from a client. After waiting for him for 15 minutes, he waved me ahead to start skiing. The snow was OK but the wind and resulting cold were HORRIBLE.

By the time we finally connected over an hour later, I was ready to call it but I wanted to give him the chance to ski. We headed over to our favorite run, Powder Keg, and the conditions were sub-par and I wasn’t skiing the moguls very well. They vacillated between being icy to having weird powder stashes and branches sticking out. It was not my best run.

Silverlode is the chairlift we usually take back up but the lines were so atrociously long–almost all the way back to the lodge. And then we found out the reason.  The 7,300-acre resort consists of two sides–the Canyons and Park City. We were skiing Park City but due to the brutal winds, the Canyons never opened so all those thousands of displaced people drove over to Park City. I motioned Jamie to bypass Silverlode and keep skiing down to King Con Express, which typically has smaller lift lines. Lo, was I wrong. All the lifts ended up having Disneyland-esque lines, worse than any holiday or weekend I’ve ever skied.

As we waited…and waited…and waited to board, we decided to call it a day. The way we traditionally return to the base is from King Con to Silverlode and then back down but a helpful French man on the lift told us we could take Erika’s Gold that would bypass the lines at Silverlode and shortcut to the base.

What this nice French man failed to note was that Erika’s Gold was an expert NIGHTMARE with steep, icy moguls. Literally, I had to peer over the edge just to see where the drop-off led, it was that steep. 

“I’m not doing this,” I announced to Jamie. “Let’s go back down and wait in the Silverlode line.”

My husband coaxed me to follow some people who were traversing across to another moguled run that didn’t look quite as steep. He lied. Instead of being a 90-degree slope, this one was 88 degrees. But we had passed the point of no return.

I tried to traverse across the slope as much as I could but it was so steep anytime I turned, I lost control.  My knee ached, and I freaked out about injuring it even more. And so I did what any woman trying to survive would do: I did the slide of shame and slid perpendicularly down the slope, which is two steps up from taking off your skis and walking down and only one step up from sliding down on your bum.

I have no shame.

I was fuming at Jamie for taking me down it but eventually made it down to a more reasonably pitched mogul run and we skied the rest of the way down. I officially announced my retirement from steep moguls.

Worst date ever. But I refuse to let that be a season-ender for me so I will go back.

Maybe I do have some shame after all.

 

Adventures at the Heber Valley Camp

It’s a busy weekend Chez Johnson. Bode just left on his first winter camp-out with a winter storm advisory in effect (pray for him) and Hadley has a volleyball tournament 1.5 hours away. This is the first time she is attempting to play since her accident so we’ll see how much she’s able to do. My twin nieces are getting baptized tomorrow and did I mention that big winter storm that is bearing down upon us? It should make for a crazy time.

All the Scouts are going to Heber Valley Camp this weekend. The LDS Church owns a smattering of camps throughout Utah and rents them out to the public in the off-season where it’s a madhouse trying to get a reservation. My brother-in-law Jeremy managed to score a one-night stay in one of the cabins and was generous enough to invite us along last year. I can’t believe I didn’t blog about it and just looking at the pictures makes me really sad because it was such an epic snow year. The rustic cabins and yurts aren’t heated but we sure had fun sledding, hiking and playing in the snow!

View from Heber Valley Camp of our little valley

The sledding races (we’re highly competitive)


I’ve been poking fun regarding how cold it will be this weekend but decided I’d better start getting Bode excited about the campout.

Me: “You know I’m just kidding about the cold, right? I’m sure you’ll have a blast this weekend!”

Him: “Do you mean a blast of heat?”

Me: “No, definitely not that.”

When I dropped him off at the church all the 11-year-old Scouts were loading up. Prior to departure, Bode was asked to say the prayer. Now, as a bit of background, Bode has always said THE BEST prayers. When he was younger, I kid you not–his nightmare prayers went on FOREVER–and even now when he’s blessing the food at dinner, he can sometimes ramble on a bit long (I mean, sometimes you just wanna eat). But you know in the book of Matthew when it admonishes against using vain repetitions? That is NOT Bode.

He gave a nice prayer for them to be safe and have a nice time but at the end, my friend Julie and I could barely contain our laughter as he prayed, “Please bless us to think twice before we do anything.”

I hereby vote THIS should be the new Scout motto.

 

Ambruary is a wrap!

Several years ago, someone jokingly nicknamed February “Ambruary,” in honor of Valentine’s Day, our anniversary and my birthday. That same month the wheels came off so Jamie banned us from ever calling it that again! We had a pretty low-key week.

Pre-Valentine’s Day. Fondue has been our Valentine’s Day tradition the last several years. Since the holiday fell on Wednesday (our busiest night of the week with volleyball, piano, Scouts, young women and missionary meeting), we had Jamie’s family over the Sunday prior for a delicious meat and cheese fondue while we watched the Olympics.

Valentine’s Day. I woke up really early on Valentine’s Day to make Pioneer Woman’s red velvet pancakes and assemble treat bags/gifts to the family. There was a minor teen meltdown that morning and she later apologized…for the first time ever. Forget Christmas miracles; it was a Valentine’s Day one. That night, we made a heart-shaped pizza that we ate in the small 30-minute window we have together. Craaaaaazy night.

Anniversary. Jamie and I celebrated 15 years of wedded bliss by meeting in Utah County to go car shopping after work.  We have essentially been a one-car family since our Pilot’s problems in Canada last year. When Jamie and I both worked from home, this wasn’t a problem but now that I’m at BYU, he needs a car to get around town. We’ve been poking around and found a 2016 Pilot with low-mileage so jumped on it quickly. Normally, we sell our vehicles on our own but decided a trade-in was the best bet due to its continued problems…and we were offered exactly what we were hoping for it which still wasn’t much but we gratefully took anything we could get. It was a wonderful, reliable car until this last year. The funny thing is we had planned to replace it until the move happened…and then we just kept pushing it back until it was almost too late. 

Isn’t it pretty? Don’t blink or you’ll miss Jamie’s bow. :-) He says he bought it for my birthday but really, he’ll be the one who drives it because his old Camry gets better gas mileage for my commute.

Birthday. I had a nice, low-key day. Normally, I would have taken my birthday off but since the day before was President’s Day, I went into work.  While the boys skied on the holiday, Hadley and I had some nice adventures hiking in the snow and bonding with the geese.

“Hey, Mom. Have you ever had anything swarm and attack you like this?”

“Yes. They’re called children.”

We had received our first sizable snowfall of the year and I was thrilled. Last year was truly epic for snow and I had a blast volunteering twice a week in Bode’s cross-country lessons at Soldier Hollow. Since going back to work, I’ve scaled that back to once a week and I haven’t minded because all they have had opened was a 5 km stretch of man-made snow (I told you it was depressing). But on my birthday, it was a white package tied up with lots of powder. Our class climbed higher than I ever had, I did not die on the downhills and I just felt grateful to be alive. The week prior, I had a bad wipe-out on a steep, icy hill. But on my birthday as I helped the slowest skier in the class, I had a renewed outlook. I no longer need to be the strongest or fastest; I just want to keep doing what I love…and survive. Low standards? Sure. But I hope to still be hiking in my 80s so longevity is my new focus…and hopefully getting one of my bad knees fixed this spring.

After cross-country skiing, we raced home for an evening out at Midway Mercantile, a delicious new restaurant in town with a stone hearth and succulent dishes. We’ll be regulars for sure!

From there, I rushed off to bookclub where we video chatted with the authors of Mustaches with Maddie. If you liked Wonder, you’ll love this feel-good book based on a true story of their daughter Maddie who was diagnosed with brain tumor.  The book had an ambiguous ending but the real-life story is so much better. Maddie spent two weeks recovering in the hospital, but luckily the doctors were able to remove 90 percent of the tumor from Maddie’s head. Unfortunately, 10 percent was hard tissue, and the doctors were unable to remove it. The risk for removing the hard tissue was much higher, so the doctors left it alone. But after the surgery, a cyst started growing on the hard tissue that was left, and two years later Maddie went in for a second surgery.

After the first surgery, her mom Shelly recalled that the pediatric neurosurgeon was just talking about things and [mentioned], “With that 10 percent you never know—maybe it could just fall right off the brain. It’s happened before.’” She continues, “I just thought, ‘I like that answer.’ And so for two years almost, we were praying at every family prayer and every meal that Maddie’s tumor would fall off her brain.”

Shelly says there were two doctors working on Maddie’s head during her second surgery as they successfully removed all the soft tissue.

But Maddie was still facing radiation because of the remaining parts of the tumor the doctors couldn’t remove.

“When they turned around [to finish the surgery], that little piece of hard tumor that was stuck to her brain had just fallen right off the brain, and they plucked it right out of her head,” Shelly says. “So it was straight up an answer to a lot of prayers that happened oddly in the way that we had hoped.”

What an amazing miracle and an amazingly awesome way to end a great birthday.

 

My month of work in review

It has been just over a month since I started working at BYU and I’m overdue for an update. The first couple of weeks were rough trying to get into the new routine and there are still a lot of areas we need to tweak with the kids’ schedules but overall, I’m enjoying the new position and my co-workers.

Week 1. We thought we were going to die. No lie. Hadley got in her ski accident on Monday (Marin Luther King Jr. Day), she stayed home from school Tuesday and I started work Wednesday. She was unraveling in so many ways and we were emotionally and physically exhausted dealing with everything. We were supposed to start a personal finance class through the Church’s Self-reliance initiative but as we lay curled up in the fetal position on the couch, we decided the class would have to wait until spring (there was a lot of intensive homework and our camel’s back was already broken). Plus, I’m still running Mile High Mamas for the foreseeable future so I’m juggling two jobs while trying to keep everything else afloat.

Week 2. I came into this position at the worst possible time with the planning of our two biggest annual events + overseeing the editorial for our alumni magazine. Even though the position is only 3/4-time,  my commute is 1.5 hours and I’ve been working longer hours. Jamie has had to pick up a lot of my slack, driving Hadley to her many doctor’s appointments. I still felt overwhelmed with the position. My predecessor is my polar opposite: bookish, research-oriented and a Pulitzer Prize winner for spreadsheets. I seriously questioned my ability to fill her shoes and felt my creativity was being squashed. However, as I edited a 100-page donor report, there were so many stories of student internship experiences that directly correlated to our struggles. It was confirmed over and over again that landing this job was not a coincidence.

Week 3.  The awakening with our first big donor event. For three days, I hosted our guest lecturer from Vanderbilt, took his amazing wife on private tours of our art museums  and connected with them both in a meaningful way. The event was poignant and meaningful….and I started to catch a glimpse that maybe I could do this and bring my own flavor to the position.  Until I received my first paycheck. After taxes, tithing and 401K, I’m not making very much money but I guess every little bit helps, especially when we have a new car payment (Jamie bought me a Pilot for my birthday) and the mountain of medical debt we’ve accrued over the past year. And the backyard that needs to be landscaped. And the basement that needs to be finished.

Week 4. Things started to click at work. My proposal to overhaul our alumni magazine was approved and my student writers were excited about the new direction we were going with less in-depth research and more features. I celebrated my birthday with fresh snow (FINALLY), cross-country skiing after school with Bode, dinner at a delicious new restaurant, Midway Mercantile, and a live video chat with the authors of “Mustaches for Maddie” (a must-read) for our bookclub. A low-key but great day thanks to my awesome family and many sweet messages from friends.

Week 5.  We’re still surviving. Life is hard in so many ways–wading through Hadley’s struggles, Jamie’s chronic pain and my mom’s hospitalization. During those rough couple of weeks when I went back to work, Jamie was being overly accommodating and I felt badly because I knew he didn’t feel well and yet was going above-and-beyond for me. His response made me chuckle: “I just don’t like tears.”

At one of my low points, he reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).

We may not be in bondage to some tyrannical leader (President Trump notwithstanding :-)   but life has been overwhelming since our move. I miss the comforts of friends and our wonderful life in Colorado as we still struggle every day to find our way here. But slowly and undeniably, God’s otherworldly strength is falling upon us and through all of this messiness, I know He is guiding our way.

Hernias, Abstinence and Guardian Angels on the Move

I was searching through my archives at Mile High Mamas for some content and stumbled upon this 10-year-old gem. Enjoy!

Last weekend, my husband Jamie helped his brother move to Utah. It allegedly went smoothly. Well, if you can count the U-haul’s brakes catching on fire going smoothly. Jamie called it a minor inconvenience.

It is a drive we did many times while we were dating. I lived in Salt Lake City while he called Denver home. Prior to our wedding, the plan was for him to fly to Utah and help me move to Colorado.

Until he got a hernia.

He had the choice to have the surgery before or after our wedding. We were holding out for Operation Consummation on our wedding night and call me crazy but a hernia just did not seem like a viable part of the process. “OF COURSE YOU WILL HAVE THE SURGERY BEFORE!” I yelped. I think I even used all-caps.

And for all those naysayers who do not believe abstinence is feasible in today’s society, throw in a hernia. Trust me, it works.

This left me to execute the move by myself. I threw the biggest, baddest going-away party around – one with loads of food…and boxes (hence the badness).

I was feeling like an empowered woman of the 2002s as I set out on the highway with my Grand Cherokee towing all my treasures. My trip was going well until the weight of the load blew out my tire in the middle of nowhere.

So, there I was stranded somewhere between Green River and Grand Junction when my guardian angel pulled up beside me. Actually, he appeared in the form of a financial analyst who was going through a painful divorce and was returning from a trip to Las Vegas.

He not only helped fix my tire, but followed me to the nearest gas station where we parted ways. A few miles down the road, he flagged me over, concerned about the different levels of air in my tires. He then slowly tailed me all the way to Grand Junction until I was safely in the care of a tire center. Evidently they breed guardian angels in that town.

Too bad he didn’t stick with me the rest of my drive. There was the blizzard atop Vail Pass that delayed me for two hours. Then when I was about two miles from Jamie’s condo, I looked out my window to see something that looked suspiciously like the bar-end on my bike. Turns out the storm had massacred my bike rack and I drove about 10 mph the remainder of the drive as my bike flopped like a dead fish off the side of my Jeep.

When I finally arrived at the condo, I collapsed into Jamie’s arms, blubbering about my ordeal and cursing his hernia.

I later got my revenge: I was exempt from moving and painting our new house because I was eight months pregnant.

Though I don’t know if I can call a weak bladder, killer heartburn and a 40-pound weight gain retribution.

 

New Year’s in Zion

We have lived in Utah over a year and have not explored Southern Utah at all. We spent last New Year’s Eve in our beloved Colorado so this year, I was NOT going to be stuck here without plans (we would later get invited to two parties) but I’m glad spent our long weekend with good friends, Dave and Rebecca, in St. George who make us look like homebodies. They adventure almost daily, just returned from a trip to Kenya, are going to Hawaii next month and then to Australia and Fiji later this year. You’d think with those itineraries they would be extremely wealthy and while they do well, they’re also minimalists and have very few material possessions. It’s all about priorities, folks.

Snow Canyon State Park

When we arrived, we hiked the Hidden Pinyon Trail in Snow Canyon State Park, a wonderland of ancient lava flows and red Navajo sandstone.  This 7,400-acre scenic park’s majestic views of lava-capped ridges was our perfect introduction to the desert.

Zion National Park

When I was a Utah-based travel writer many years ago, some of my favorite adventures were in Zion National Park. Angel’s Landing. Observation Point. Backpacking the West Rim Trail. Truly, it’s like no place on earth and I was saddened to see just how overrun it has become. In the peak season, shuttle buses run to help with the congestion and lack of parking but on this busy holiday weekend in the off-season, there were no such options. Dave is the ultimate trip planner and insisted we had to wake up at 5 a.m. to get a parking spot. We whined and complained but he was correct–by 6:45 a.m, all the parking was full. It was a COLD morning so we stayed snuggled up in their van until the sun warmed the red rock cliffs. Sadly, Jamie had a rheumatism attack all night long so stayed behind to sleep.

Angel’s Landing is the most iconic hike in the park (besides the Narrows) and my kids were both dying to do it…but Dave’s youngest daughter was wary of scrambling on the vertigo-inducing precipitous cliffs with only a chain to hold onto. We instead opted to hike to Scouts Landing, which took us to the base of the Angel’s Landing and though I’m sad we couldn’t knock this one off the kids’ bucket list, we were just happy to be there. And I was particularly happy my knees withstood Walter’s Wiggles’ steep switchbacks and the descent.

 

Walter’s Wiggles

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Following our hike, we took a lovely southeast detour to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park’s shifting sea of soft red sand.  Formed from the same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country, the tired kids came to life–racing, jumping and rolling down the rippling arcs of rust-colored sand.

New Year’s Eve

The LDS Church is true all the time but especially true in St. George. Because it was New Year’s Eve, we only had one hour of meetings as opposed to three + a speaker didn’t show up so we got out early. We took our family to tour Brigham Young’s Winter Home, followed by a hike. We were looking for something low-key because it was the Sabbath and stumbled upon the coolest area in St. George, the Red Cliffs Desert Preserve with slot canyons, an arch and the coolest sandstone formations that felt like we’d be dumped off on Mars.

New Year’s Eve was just as memorable. We had full-contact fondue and Rebecca had pulled together some fun Minute to Win It Games. I had gained the reputation with their daughters as “the fun one” so they fought to have me on their team, which they later regretted.

You win some, you lose some. Or in my case, you lose them all.

We watched The Rookie. Jamie and I went to bed shortly after midnight while the kids all stayed up until the movie was over. Sweet Bode would later tipdly knock on our closed door for family prayers, only to have sleepy Jamie growl “kill him.”

Because every New Year should begin with a death threat. Here’s a “killer” 2018.